“Turning Dreams Into Reality” – Leadership Event at the Portcullis House

‘Turning Dreams into Reality, Anger into Justice, Problems into Solutions’ - Launching our Leadership Programme at the Portcullis House

Shpresa Programme welcomes guests, friends, partners and funders to the Portcullis House in Westminster once again, this time to celebrate a journey of hope and inspire the growth of the organisation’s evergreen statement of leadership.

An event that comes in a time of transition, to remind us, as Shpresa Programme frequently does, that there is always hope, creativity, and initiative which fuels our drive to connect with our community and build bridges of integration and success.

A room filled with friends, family, guests, partners and funders, and yet we all felt an irreplaceable absence amongst us – our dear Luljeta, the CEO of Shpresa Programme. Due to her difficult circumstances she couldn’t be among us physically, but her kind heart and fierce spirit was felt throughout the event. Luljeta’s testimony of over 20 years of hard work, dedication and wholeheartedness channelled to create a home away from home that brings all of us together, is engraved in the lives of hundreds of Shpresa Programme users, volunteers, staff, supporters, friends, partners, organisations, vulnerable groups, funders – individuals and groups from all walks of life. The Atlee Suite of The Portcullis House is in tears as our friend Jerry During, a Co-founding director and Chief Executive Officer of Money A+E – a community interest company, echoes a message sent to us by Luljeta:

“Your time is limited, follow your heart and intuition, they somehow always know who you want to be”

‘Turning Dreams into Reality, Anger into Justice, Problems into Solutions’ - the slogan of our event

A slogan that has fueled Shpresa’s drive and initiatives throughout the years and as we accumulate what these words mean to us in testimonies of lived experiences and successes, we are happy to launch our leadership programme and ‘turn dreams into reality’.

We were happy and privileged to be welcomed to this evening by RT Hon Stephen Timms, who has always supported the Shpresa Programme, and gone the extra mile for the Albanian-speaking community. RT Hon Stephen Timms spoke about Shpresa Programme as “an inspirational self-help organisation”, whose example he would like to “see to be taken up widely” speaking to the model established for change. Followed by an energising rhythm of applause from the audience, Rebecca Roberts spoke about the “incredibly rewarding” work between Shpresa Programme and Trust for London over the years which she described as “humbling and inspiring”. Our next speaker, Alistair Wilson, the CEO of School for Social Entrepreneurs spoke about Luljeta’s journey in founding Shpresa Programme, and collectively with colleagues, family and friends building it up into a loving nest that creates leaders and inspires leadership amongst all its stakeholders. In his words, Alistair said that “hand on heart, Luljeta is certainly one of the most impressive students of SSE ” that he has met through his long career and professional expertise. We share in Alistair’s hopefulness for the future that “this very exciting leadership programme” will bring.

As quoted by Newham Citizens UK

"The event was as a powerful testimony on how Community Organising can bring about change”.

The audience is taken through a timeline of our vivid history, as we hear about how “Shpresa was able to give the Albanian-speaking community a voice, which has been very powerful”, in the words of one of our wonderful speakers and great friend of Shpresa, Caroline Verdant, HLTA/Performing Arts Co-lead from St Antony’s Catholic Primary School. Over the last 20 years, Shpresa Programme has created a platform that has nurtured the courage for social activism, the capacity for participation and integration and the tools needed to directly tackle the issues that concern our community; all delivered with kindness and genuinity as the captivating remark by Fr Angus Ritchie’s, from TELCO Citizens, brought forward: “receiving from community organising is a blessing” – and we agree!

The purpose of the event was to celebrate Shpresa’s work of learning about and teaching leadership through the years, and the launch of our leadership programme. An exciting opportunity for emerging leaders, rooted in the “powerful combination between lived experience and learnt experience”, carefully put together from Luljeta and other esteemed experts. In the words of Jonathan Ellis, a brilliant campaigner, teacher and catalyst and also one of our speakers at the event, we are certain that all participants will be struck by the “incredible originality and freshness of this material”. Sarah Cutler, strategist and programme director, spoke about the meaning of the leadership programme and reminded us of an important definition of leadership: “Leadership is equality and ability to define a vision” – a definition that, as Sarah put it, Shpresa Programme helped us build. “Full participation in democratic and civil rights in this country for the Albanian-speaking community” will be the next step for Shpresa Programme, through officially launched leadership programme.

As we approach the final remarks, our wonderful speakers Lediana Pajaj and Andre Demushi, who have not only walked with us through this inspiring journey but also shared their own leadership journeys; the audience is reminded that Shpresa Programme is a living album of success stories such as these. The room is full of personal testimonies of hard work, resilience, passion and success – stories that began as ideas, thoughts, brave initiatives; a courageous drive for change and improvement, within the home of Shpresa Programme. As it is customary at Shpresa Programme, Andre walks us through an interactive form of evaluation. Keywords to describe the experience were: 

Inspiring, Motivating, Enlivening, Refreshing, Hopeful, Exciting, Heartwarming and more

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Excited for the new opportunities that the future brings, we embark on this enlivening journey by reminding you of Jonathan Ellis’ closing remarks:

I think this is the start of something incredibly important in this country. Keep an eye out for this programme and spread the word!”

Gratitude and appreciation go to all our lovely guests, esteemed speakers, our tireless and hardworking staff, our wonderful volunteers and users, great partners and funders, and everyone else involved in making Shpresa Programme all that it is  – without you none of this would be possible. 

a blog by Amina Meshnuni

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